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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Alumni Career Spotlight: Cecil Okotah

Cecil Okotah
Environmental Policy & Decision Making '17
Environmental Sustainability Specialist, OSU Dept. of Athletics and Business Advancement

Cecil OkotahAs an undergraduate student, Cecil studied Environmental Policy and Decision Making with a specialization in Environmental and Social Justice and completed his degree in SENR in 2017.  During this time, he interned with Ohio State's Facilities Operations Development Department and worked on several projects related to sustainability within higher education. Cecil later earned a Master of Environmental Science degree from Miami University's Institute for the Environment and Sustainability. Currently, he serves as the Environmental Sustainability Specialist for Ohio State's Department of Athletics and Business Advancement.


A Glance at Cecil’s Current Work

I serve as the Environmental Sustainability Specialist for Ohio State's Department of Athletics and Business Advancement and also report to the Assistant Director - Sustainability within Facilities Operations and Development. 

In my role as the Sustainability Specialist for the Department of Athletics and Business Advancement, I am responsible for working closely with our building managers to ensure that our operations are in line with the university's sustainability goals. My day-to-day activities are varied and depend on the specific needs of the department. However, a typical day at the office involves closely monitoring and tracking various sustainability indicators, such as our department's energy and water usage, as well as hosting zero-waste events and analyzing our solid waste data to identify areas where we can improve.

In addition to these tasks, I spend a considerable amount of time researching the latest sustainability trends and benchmarking best practices to ensure that we are always at the forefront of sustainability initiatives. 

Additionally, as part of a team of three reviewers, I assist in reviewing construction documents for new construction and renovation projects on campus to ensure that they adhere to Ohio State's Building Design Standards - Division 18 Sustainability.

Professional Development

What were you involved in during college?

I had the opportunity to work as a Sustainability Outreach Intern with Ohio State's Facilities Operations and Development team. As a part of my role, I was responsible for conducting extensive research and analysis of the best sustainability practices adopted by various higher education institutions. This enabled me to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with sustainability initiatives in higher education.

One of my significant contributions as a Sustainability Outreach Intern was working with other interns to develop a comprehensive survey aimed at first-year students. The survey was created to educate students on proper waste diversion methods that were specific to our campus. This involved conducting extensive research and collaborating with numerous stakeholders to ensure the survey was comprehensive and effective. The survey was instrumental in promoting sustainable practices among the student community and created a significant impact on waste management initiatives on our campus.


What advice would you give to someone who is still in college and hoping to do what you do?

To gain a better understanding of the environmental sustainability industry, I highly recommend that you remain active on campus and attend networking sessions. These events provide valuable opportunities to meet professionals in the field and learn about their work, as well as the latest trends and developments.

One relatively inexpensive option available to you as a student at Ohio State is attending the Environmental Professionals Network (EPN) events hosted on campus every second Tuesday of the month during the spring and fall semesters. These events offer a chance to connect with like-minded students and experts and gain insights into different environmental science topics.

In addition to attending these events, I recommend scheduling a meeting with your career advisor to discuss your job search journey, help you identify potential employers, and offer tips on standing out during the job search process.

Gaining experience while in school can be a great way to build your profile and make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers. You may want to consider internships, research opportunities, or volunteer work. These experiences will not only allow you to apply what you have learned in the classroom but also provide you with valuable skills and network connections that can help you in your future career.


What experience do you feel was most valuable in your professional development?

I have had quite a few experiences that have contributed to my professional development, but there are two that I hold in high regard. The first experience that comes to mind is when I worked as a sustainability outreach intern here at Ohio State University. This was an exceptional opportunity for me to learn about the intricacies of working in higher education, and I was able to gain exposure to industry terminologies and processes. Furthermore, as the recycling coordinator for Miami University, I had the privilege of attending meetings with influential decision-makers. This experience provided me with valuable insight into the decision-making process.


What was a challenge you faced in your professional development and how did you overcome it?

In the field of environmental sustainability, drawing upon knowledge and skills from different disciplines such as business, engineering, economics, and environmental science is common practice to address the growing environmental challenges that we face. However, without the necessary expertise, navigating this multidisciplinary landscape can be daunting. To overcome such potential obstacles, I network and engage with a wide range of experts to seek guidance and resources to develop any skill sets that I may be lacking. Their support and mentorship have been invaluable in my professional growth, and I am committed to continuing to learn and grow in my field.


What did you immediately do post-graduation?

I took a year off after completing my undergraduate degree in 2017 to prepare for grad school. I then earned my master's degree in 2020 from Miami University and started working. After grad school, I started out as the program assistant for the EPN before moving on to my current position.


What was most important to you in your job search?

After completing my graduate studies, my top priorities were to find a job that would lead me towards my ultimate career goal and allow me to stay close to my family. I was also looking for a position that would provide me with ample opportunities to build my network. As the program assistant for EPN, I gained valuable insights into the significance of networking in the sustainability field. This experience proved beneficial in helping me transition towards my current job.


How to connect with Cecil:

Linkedin: Cecil Okotah